Cheri Eichholz Cherry is the newsroom coordinator at the Columbia Missourian. She wrote this reflection last week, the night before the 10th anniversary of her father's death.
10 years ago plus 14 hours from now I would answer the phone from a deep sleep and hear my mom say, “He’s gone.”
10 years ago plus one day from now my brother would pick me up at the highway and we would drive to Kutis Funeral Home in St. Louis to plan my dad’s funeral. I took the wheel and he urged me to drive faster so we’d make our appointment. I didn’t want to. He told me he’d get me out of the ticket — something my dad had told me before. So I drove faster.
10 years ago plus one day from now we found our way to the funeral director’s office and made difficult decisions that would attempt, but fail, to make everyone happy.
10 years ago plus one day plus two grueling hours from now, in the funeral director’s office, we learned you have to hand over $1,000 for someone to “open the grave.”
10 years ago plus two days from now, as the sun closed in on the horizon, I stood in the parking lot sipping a semi-cool Foster’s, reminiscing with my brothers, nephews, cousins, friends and my husband. We told stories, laughed, shot long glances at each other, grimaced and shook our heads. But we didn’t cry.
Nine years and 364 days after he died, pending his 10-year death anniversary, I fell apart.
I tried to think about what my dad meant to me and what I meant to him, but I came up with nothing. In my mind’s eye I always see the two of us squared off, me with my hand on my hip and head cocked ready and waiting for him to goad me, and him, thoughtful, digging deep for ammo. I expected I would have to try to push that image aside, but it didn’t come this time, so I didn’t have to.
The reason I fell apart, though, was my imaginings of how much my dad would have liked my daughter. She would have made him laugh, and he would have bragged about her. He would have taught her how to tease me and make fun of me. He would have wanted her to visit him and spend long weekends. They would have knocked around flea markets together, and he would have bought her terrible, tacky things. She would have become a faster walker and would have learned how to look quickly at the tables. She would have tasted his awful, overcooked food and drank discount sodas. She would have noted his odd furnishings and fixtures, and marveled at how tidy he kept his living space, all the time wanting his unique decor to tie together. She would have noticed his inability to pull together a matching outfit. She would have told me about what he wore when she came home, and we would have laughed.
10 years ago on this day in the early afternoon I called my dad in the hospital. We’d been there to see him the day before. In our last conversation ever, he said, “I’m scared, Cher.” His voice clipped, and he went quiet. We stayed on the phone a few minutes, mostly in silence, save my trite reassurances. I hung up, grabbed my video camera and told my husband and daughter we were going to make a video of our day and I would mail it to him the next day. We had a wonderful supper and went to bed. An hour into our sleep, the phone rang.
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